Oaklawn: Last Samurai, Tejano Twist win graded stakes

Oaklawn: Last Samurai, Tejano Twist win graded stakes
Photo: Oaklawn / Coady Photography

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas would not be denied, and neither would Last Samurai.

Breaking from the outside post in a 10-horse field and racing four wide while rating the pace from mid-pack, Last Samurai (1-1) was coaxed forward by jockey Cristián Torres until he finally wore down Classic Causeway (7-2) to win Saturday in the Grade 3, $500,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn.

Click here for Oaklawn entries and results.

It was the second win in a row for the 5-year-old Malibu Moon horse owned by the Willis Horton estate. Last Samurai came into the Essex off a Feb. 18 victory in the Razorback Handicap (G3).

“I actually felt that the race was smoother and more professional today than the last one,” said Lukas, 87, who won the Essex for a record third time. “He got a beautiful ride from Cristián. I was worried about the 10 hole, frankly, when we drew that. Getting into that first turn from the 10 hole, the race is usually won or lost right there. When he dropped in nicely like that and showed a little speed, I thought that we had a great chance. It was a very smooth run. I don’t think it took that much out of him for his next run.”

With Flavien Prat riding for trainer Kenny McPeek, 4-year-old Classic Causeway set the early pace in the 1 1/16-mile race, establishing early fractions of 24.05, 48.28 and 1:12.65. Last Samurai got on even terms just before turning for home, seizing the lead in the last 300 yards.

Last Samurai was clocked at 1:37.07 and ran on to a one-length victory, clocked at 1:43.17 on the fast track. Classic Causeway finished second. Forza Di Oro (8-1) finished third, and Vittorio (7-1) wound up fourth.

“He’s a horse that it takes a long time to start going, but I was in the perfect spot today,” Torres said. “I was where I wanted to be. Right when I hit the half-mile pole, I started asking him, because I know he takes a while. When he turned for home, he just exploded. He finished up really well.”

The victory pushed Last Samurai’s record to 24: 6-4-4, including 9: 4-2-0 at Oaklawn, with total earnings of $1,908,264.

It was the first time Lukas won the Essex since Greydar scored for him 32 years ago. Lukas also won in 1987 with Sun Master, a horse he owned with his late son Jeff.

Tejano Twist closes to win Whitmore

After spotting the early leader 7 1/4 lengths, Tejano Twist (9-5) started to make his winning move at the top of the stretch on the way to a 1 1/2-length triumph in the $200,000 Whitmore (G3), a six-furlong sprint for older horses.

The 4-year-old Practical Joke gelding won for the fourth time in his last five races and his first in three tries in a graded stakes. 

Miles Ahead (6-1), another closer, never was a threat to win, but he finished second. Edge to Edge (6-8), who stalked the pace throughout the race, held the lead briefly in the stretch before fading to finish third, 2 1/4 lengths behind his stablemate Tejano Twist.

“I thought (Edge to Edge) might be having them at the top of the lane,” winning trainer Chris Hartman said. “I thought he might have had them. He was cruising on the lead. He had company, but it looked like he had horse left. Tejano outkicked him coming down the lane. It was a good race.”

“He’s a nice horse,” Tejano Twist’s jockey Francisco Arrieta said. “He’s got a great kick, man. That horse, I just let him run. So impressed how fast he went.”

Tejano Twist was clocked at 1:09.27 after chasing early fractions of 22.22 and 45.27 seconds.

It was the first Whitmore win for Hartman, Arrieta and owners JD Thoroughbreds and Joey Keith David.

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